Yesterday while reclining in a chair on the front porch in the moon-lit dark with my favorite alley cat (whom I call) Percy, I noticed his ears go up and then looked in the direction he was staring. It isn’t uncommon for one of the half dozen stray kitties in the neighborhood to stop by unannounced, thinking they can get a few kibbles from the supply I leave for Percy on the glass table. If the porch light is on they clearly see me, and hang out on the edge of darkness to outwait me (cats are the very pajamas of patience). In the darkness, however – depending on how still I am – a couple of them have even jumped in my lap thinking I was the chair. It doesn’t sit well with any of the strays finding themselves on my lap (except Percy, who rubs and drools all over me), and they immediately exit stage left, even. But it wasn’t Percy’s barbarian brethren that put him on alert. It was a skunk.
It took me about three seconds longer than Percy to spot it, and by then it was waddling past the front door right toward us. I replaced the immediate urge to run with the primeval instinct to become a statue. Percy slid out of my lap and climbed to the far end of the table, as quiet as a look. Smart cat. The skunk tottered right under my chair as calm as can be, then turned and shuffled right between my feet. I was petrified, literally. But at the same time I was fascinated and in awe. From his tiny nose to the tip of his fuzzy tail he was about a meter long, with a pronounced white streak down the back of his jet black fur. I so wanted to just reach down and find out if his luscious coat was as silky as it looked, but had I done so, I’m sure I would be taking a tomato bath right about now.
Pepe (there, I’ve named him, but that doesn’t make him family) either didn’t know I was there even with streams of sweat cascading off me, or he had so much confidence that he wasn’t afraid of anything on the planet except a moving car. He went right up to the large plastic recycling bin full of all our glass, plastic and metal, and sniffed on and around every square inch at least three times. My eyes were glued on him and I started praying (silently) that he wouldn’t notice me. Having seen something promising in the bin, Pepe stretched his stubby clawed arms to the top of the bin, but they were far too weak to pull his long-bodied bulk up. He tried though, and it looked like he was doing mini pull ups or standing crunches. I remember thinking “O my God there’s a real-life skunk rooting around right next to my foot! This can go sooo bad!” All my other thoughts were just terrified ramblings. I felt absolutely helpless. Any second Pepe could have seen me from a different angle in the moonlight and introduced me to his sticky stink. That experience is so far off my bucket list it has it’s own zip code.
It seemed about half an hour by the time Pepe realized there was nothing around to scavenge and finally faded back into the deep darkness. I didn’t move an atom while he rummaged about; you could have beaned me with a crowbar right then and I still wouldn’t have budged for fear of startling him. It took another ten minutes for me to gather my wits about me and slink inside, trembling and wide-eyed. As I passed Percy his eyes told me “welcome to the club.” Gee, thanks.
I don’t care if Percy complains or not. I’ve installed fifteen 200 watt Full Spectrum flood lights on the front porch (on 24/7) and keep a two year supply of replacement lights in the pantry. At night our porch can be seen by satellites. I’ve turned the front porch into a discotheque complete with spinning mirror globes and musical dance tiles, and play Electronica music at 195 decibels. Yep. Satellites can hear me, too, on a quiet night. The Helen Keller of skunks would run away by the seismic activity alone.
I hope Pepe finds what he’s looking for, far, far away.